It’s been one of the most open English Premier League races in years — what happens next is key
Nearing the halfway mark, it has been one topsy-turvy season for the English Premier League, compounded by Chelsea’s long slump and an unexpected mid-stage leader — Leicester.
With only 9 points now separating the top eight teams, what happens next would be critical.
Bournemouth VS Manchester United
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manchester United’s midfield star, has been charged with violent conduct in the game against West Ham — will he miss the next three league matches? (Photo: AGIF / Shutterstock.com)
After last weekend’s stalemate against West Ham, Manchester United has now drawn 0-0 in four of its last six home matches. While Louis van Gaal’s team are only three points off the top of the table, there are concerns about the next match including coming off a tough Champions League fixture against Wolfsburg, several players including Wayne Rooney being out with injury, as well as key midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger being charged with violent conduct for an elbow shown against Winston Reid at West Ham.
This is undoubtedly a difficult game for the Red Devils given that Bournemouth won at Chelsea last weekend. Being 20-time English champions, they should have too much quality to worry but expect an ugly away win.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester Utd
Manchester City VS Swansea City
Manchester City didn’t just lose last weekend at Stoke — the Citizens were comprehensively outplayed. Even though they are back at their beloved Etihad Stadium, the match against Swansea will be another tough one.
City’s defending was abysmal last week, so manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping that captain Vincent Kompany can return to the back four after an injury-plagued campaign. The good news for them is that Kevin de Bruyne is match-hardened and is becoming a consistent performer, who will take the lead in the absence of Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri.
Expect a return to winning ways for City, with at least two goals in the opening 45 minutes.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Swansea
Aston Villa VS Arsenal
Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal’s other English youngsters have risen to the occasion. (Photo: Mitch Gunn / Shutterstock.com)
Injury-hit Arsenal rode its luck in the 3-1 home victory over Sunderland last weekend. It was fortunate that Mesut Oezil and Aaron Ramsey stepped up in the absence of many frontline stars, including Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.
Once again, Olivier Giroud is shouldering a heavy load at the front because of injuries in the team. Against the Black Cats, he scored an own goal before redeeming himself in the second half by putting the Gunners ahead.
In a Champions League week, manager Arsene Wenger won’t be fancying the trip to face Aston Villa. Frenchman Remi Garde has made a decent start to his tenure at Villa, and will be targeting an upset against his countryman.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal
Liverpool VS West Bromwich Albion
Liverpool was given a reality check when Newcastle United got the better of the Merseyside team in a well-deserved 2-0 victory in the last match. Nevertheless, the Reds are only six points outside the top four, in eighth spot, and five places above West Brom.
The Baggies shared the spoils with Tottenham last weekend and will not be easy to break down at Anfield.
However, the Reds can expect to get the upper hand at home to take another important step towards qualification for European competition next season.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 West Brom
Leicester City VS Chelsea
After 15 matches, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City has more than twice the tally of Jose Mourinho’s miserable Chelsea — 32 points compared to 15. The Foxes have also scored 32 goals compared to only 17 by the Blues, who are reigning champions.
Mourinho wants to wake up immediately and find that it’s all been a dream, but the nightmare is set to continue with a likely ninth league defeat of the season.
Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Chelsea
By Jason Dasey